The Royal British Legion is a leading Armed Forces charity. Membership is open to everyone; you don’t have to be a serving or ex-Service person or British either, we welcome men and women of all ages. The Brussels Branch of the RBL has a mixed membership made of British and Belgian members working side by side.

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As a member of The Royal British Legion you will be part of a network of like-minded people who care about our Armed Forces personnel, past and present. The Brussels Branch provides Welfare for a number of beneficiaries –   ex-service men or women in need of varying levels of support. This typically includes hospital and home visits as well as financial assistance. We also provide a social aspect for our members; including trips, lunches and other activities. The RBL Brussels Branch, like other branches in Belgium, also provides military representation at many of the ceremonies organised at cemeteries and memorials to the missing in Belgium.

Our main fund raising activity is the Poppy Appeal, which happens on an annual basis– a strong tradition in Belgium where, in the fields of Flanders and Picardy, the blood-red poppies grew around the bodies of the fallen soldiers who lost their lives in the terrible battles of the First World War.

Why not come along to one of our informal Branch lunches and get to know who we are and what we do. Lunches are organised near the Cinquantenaire every second Monday of the month. For further information, please call 02 7674726.

Visit the Brussels Branch website to find out more about the Royal British Legion’s work and activities in Brussels

 

Are you the next winner of a Golden Bridge Trade & Export Award?

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Michel Vanhoonacker, BLCC Chairman
“Former winners and finalists have confirmed that the award has enhanced their image in the UK or Belgian market and at home, and has provided an incentive for their staff. It is particularly encouraging that so many companies, having won the Golden Bridge Trade & Export Award and experienced the benefits, decide to sponsor or support the awards year after year.”

What are they?

The Golden Bridge Awards recognise the trade and export success of UK companies doing business in Belgium, and Belgian & Luxembourg companies doing business in the UK. The awards celebrated their 20th anniversary in 2016, in which five outstanding companies were presented with awards after impressing a panel of judges from the business community, previous winners, representatives from regional trade bodies and The British Ambassador to Belgium, Alison Rose, as well as H.E. Guy Trouveroy, Ambassador of the King of the Belgians at the Court of St James’

Why should your company apply?

  • Celebrate your company’s bilateral successes and reflect with your team on your journey.
  • Raise company profile within your industry, as well as amongst potential customers.
  • Showcase your export credentials at the awards gala which is held at the Belgian-Luxembourg Chamber of Commerce’s unique Victorian Ballroom venue at 8 Northumberland Avenue, just a short distance from Trafalgar Square, London.

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What could your company win?

  • Visibility on the awards night itself.
  • A one-year free membership of the British Chamber. If you qualify under our SME criteria, you receive free membership already if you are shortlisted as a finalist.
  • Participation in our Golden Bridge Awards Winners’ Day programme in Brussels in January 2018 to celebrate your success with fellow chamber members, partners and the British Ambassador to Belgium. The winners day includes an exclusive lunch with the British Ambassador at her Residence in Brussels, tailored content sessions provided by British Chamber and/or BLCC members as well as recognition at our members-only New Year Networking Cocktail, attended by over 100 British Chamber members.
  • Your company featured in the British Chamber’s annual publications and in articles on our social media channels.

For more information on how to apply or for any questions please contact:

Alexandra Trandafir, Business & Trade Executive: golden.bridge@britishchamber.be

Michel Vanhoonacker, BLCC Chairman: mvanhoonacker@blcc.co.uk

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This week the Brussels Chamber of Commerce explore the link between the UK and Belgium in trade and how it is key to both the UK and Belgium going forwards.

There is a strong and longstanding trade relationship between the UK and Belgium. It is without doubt this relationship is of great importance to both countries. UK exports to Belgium were worth 17,4 billion Euro in 2014[1], making Belgium  the eighth largest export market for the UK. In 2015 Belgium exports to the UK were worth 31,9 billion Euro,[2] which makes it the fourth largest export market for Belgium. It is of great importance to maintain this relationship.

The prospect of Brexit gives a great deal of uncertainty for the economy. Negotiations between the mainland and the island are bound to be tense. Both having different visions on Brexit. Today we can only speculate about the scope and impact of Brexit. But whatever the outcome will be, it has already had a huge impact on the economy, causing political and institutional instability. Article 50 has not yet been invoked, but the psychological impact is increasing with talk of a possible ‘hard’ or ‘soft’ Brexit.

At this moment, it is unclear which direction it will take. Either way, the impact will rather be mild for most of the European countries, but, along with a few others, not for Belgium. Although there will be a huge direct impact, such as a descending BBP, there will be also be various indirect effects. Think about quality control, labels and certification in all industries. Think about the common CE-marking which are based on a EU decision (93/465/EEG) and is connected to the free movement to lift trade barriers.

Could we have predicted Brexit? It would not have been a surprise knowing the history of economics with its cyclical movements whereby either the government takes charge and setting rules to protect, or capitalism prevails with less rules and more economical freedom. At this moment capitalism seems to be its own victim. Geopolitical threats and economic crises push boundaries of the free movement of people, goods and services. With the backdrop of global insecurity and discontent, such trends it is not surprising citizens come into revolute and demanded for Brexit through the referendum. Brexit could be considered as an indication of a rise in protectionism, deglobalization, nationalism and isolationism in Europe.

Without doubt, protectionism seems the holy grail to have a government intervention to protect your own citizens and build a solid future for the country. However, the purchasing power of citizens will decrease, imports will be more expensive and both importing and exporting will be more difficult resulting in less economic growth and even more discontent of citizens. There is no solid future if the importance of trade is disregarded. Even though we don’t know what consequences Brexit will have, it does not need to be a matter of playing it ‘hard’ or ‘soft’. We would all benefit of a rather pragmatic and sustainable approach.

For example, once the UK leaves the EU, a new trade agreement with the EU will be one of the most important agreements to be negotiate. However, Brexit already gives uncertainty and there cannot be trade without protecting the rules. After all, keeping a good trade relationships works both ways. As both importing and exporting will come with more rules, it is fair enough to protect both exporters and importers to counteract arbitrariness to avoid even more uncertainty. As it would take years to negotiate new agreements, it is obvious that if we want to benefit from trade and avoid more uncertainty, the European Court of Justice needs to be acknowledge by the UK when they leave.

However, there is more than trade for which Belgium – and Brussels in particular – can become even a more important partner for the UK. As Brexit also affects the willingness of companies to stay in Britain and Brussels is just around the corner. A report of the high level expert group of the banking sector, published in January 2016[3], stated that there needs to be an important role for the banking sector in Brussels for companies. The financial sector will invest and develop in this sector which makes Brussels a perfect location nearby London with an excellent connection. Brussels is not only strategically located vis-à-vis London but houses the main European institutions and related lobbies. It is close to top decision makers of the European Union. Thereby Brussels is a buzzing hub of entrepreneurship. All this attracts ambitious, highly educated people who speak different languages and English is widely spoken. Belgium is an interesting place to headhunt for their companies on the mainland.

In this respect it is in all parties interests to maintain the long standing trade relationship between the UK and Belgium. The UK has a lot to win from a partner as Belgium in this changing environment. Belgium, as one of the most important trade partners, will have to keep the excellent relationship and make trade with the UK companies. Both countries have a lot to gain and need to take the opportunity to strengthen their ties in a decade where it needs to be released the importance of such a relationship.

This piece was written by Amy Kessels, Coördinator Strategy at the Brussels Chamber of Commerce.

[1] Agentschap van Buitenlandse Handel  (2016, augustus). http://www.abh-ace.be. Extracted of  http://www.abh-ace.be/sites/default/files/Bilateral_notes/September_16/nota-stat-verenigd_koninkrijk-augustus2016_version_a4_-_ld_2.pdf, p. 5.

[2] Agentschap van Buitenlandse Handel  (2016, augustus). http://www.abh-ace.be. Extracted of  http://www.abh-ace.be/sites/default/files/Bilateral_notes/September_16/nota-stat-verenigd_koninkrijk-augustus2016_version_a4_-_ld_2.pdf, p. 3.

[3] High Expert Group  (2016, Januari). Febelfin. Extracted of  https://www.febelfin.be/sites/default/files/InDepth/hleg_report_-_the_future_of_the_belgian_financial_sector.pdf, p. 3.

The Benelux is a framework for multilateral cooperation between Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxemburg. The objective is to promote cross-border cooperation to help find solutions for common problems and if possible to act as a precursor for Europe. Next to the classical economic cooperation, the Benelux is also active in the field of security. On the basis of a political declaration, close cooperation between the Benelux and the German state of North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW) is possible. This enables the Benelux countries and Germany – in particular NRW – to work jointly to tackle organized crime together.

beneluxThe Benelux has chosen to make the promotion of the so called administrative approach to organized crime one of its priorities. This means that the partners promote an integrated multi-agency approach that includes judicial as well as administrative measures. In a common project the Benelux and NRW focus on an administrative approach to crime related to outlaw motorcycle gangs (OMG) in the Euregion Meuse-Rhine, the border region between Germany and the Benelux. Recently there has been a notable increase of crime related to OMG. But application of administrative measures on one side of the border causes a displacement effect; OMG try to avoid these measures by shifting their activities across the border. Therefore, cross-border information exchange is the key to an effective approach to crime related to outlaw motorcycle gangs.

Tackling crime together 

The cooperation has resulted in the publishing of the report Tackling crime together. In the first half of 2016, the project, the report and its conclusions and recommendations have been presented to the European Union, which has endorsed them in the Council Conclusions of the Justice and Home Affairs ministers of June 2016. In these conclusions the Member States, the European Commission and Europol are called upon to stimulate, support and facilitate activities concerning cross-border multi-agency cooperation with administrative and law enforcement authorities and further develop cross-border projects, such as the Benelux pilot in the Euregion Meuse-Rhine, in order to better identify opportunities and obstacles for cross-border information exchange for administrative purposes in the fight against serious and organized crime, including crime related to Outlaw Motorcycle Gangs. The Benelux partners endeavor to follow-up the recommendations of the Benelux report ‘Tackling crime together’, especially the call for a pilot project regarding a cross-border multi-agency information and expertise center in the Euregion Meuse-Rhine to prevent and tackle organized crime.

Benelux multi-agency center 

Besides the project partners, other EU Member States and Europol will be invited through the Informal Network on the administrative approach to act as an observer or deliver expertise based on their experience with multi-agency cooperation. Furthermore, the outcomes of this project will be disseminated and reported to other Member States and EU institutions through both the channels of the Informal Network on the administrative approach as well as the Standing Committee on internal security (COSI).

Tasks 

The foreseen tasks of the Benelux multi-agency center can be divided into an operational, awareness, policy/judicial and dissemination track:

1) Operational: information broker in cross-border cases and signaling difficulties in sharing information for administrative purposes,

2) Awareness: sharing best practices on how to implement the administrative approach, developing concrete instruments (e.g. cross-border barrier models on priority crime phenomena) and share expertise on how to set up a multi-agency cooperation.

3) Policy/judicial: analysis of judicial difficulties in sharing information in cross-border cases for administrative purposes, provide recommendations for adjustments of bilateral or trilateral treaties and EU legislation

4) Dissemination to EU institutions: include observers from EU institutions (Europol) and interested EU Member states (in addition to the project partners). Present the outcomes to all relevant EU fora.

Conclusion 

The desired starting date of the project is 1 September 2017 and it will have a duration of 3 years. In a later stage it is the explicit wish to extend the pilot project to other EU Member States and Europol. In order to provide guidance, direction and control to this project a steering committee will be established.

Through a cross-border multi-agency approach to organized crime the Benelux-countries and Germany aim for more efficiency and effectiveness in fighting crime. Paramount for success is realizing that common problems are tackled best through a common approach.

Being born in Bruges, the relevance of bilateral trade has always seemed normal to me as its beauty and the signs of its middle ages’ wealth are still very much apparent today. Bruges has many streets and quarters called after its original residents – English Street and Spanish Street e.g. where the merchants from all parts of Europe used to live and trade with each other, long before the emergence of the nation states. My parental home was owned at some point and lived in by several ‘foreign’ merchants – and probably less relevant in this case, even an English Reverend. Wool was shipped from Beverley in Yorkshire where I live now to Bruges and Flemish bricks were sent back on the returning boats which needed ballast. Flemish weavers turned wool into cloth which was then sent to Italy and beyond. It did not make the people of these different places any poorer, quite on the contrary. A French queen once complained on her visit to Bruges that this was the only place where the local ladies were better dressed than herself.

And the same can be said today. As small countries, Belgium and Luxembourg depend heavily on exports and many of the companies I meet export often more than 90% of their production as the domestic market is simply too small to survive. Vice versa, Belgium and Luxembourg also import lots of goods, mainly from their neighbours such as Britain and they add value before exporting them again. The only way any country without any substantial natural resources can become wealthier, is by attracting foreign investment and by exporting. Bilateral trade is hence crucial to achieve our other aims such as creating a fairer society where we can look after the weak and old, where we can give our children the best education and the best chances in life.

Naturally some countries are better or more efficient at producing certain goods or services than others. Sometimes they have gained this advantage over time or sometimes it has historical or cultural reasons. German cars, French cosmetics, British creative industries, American smartphones and so on. This is great news as bilateral trade allows other countries to buy the best or more efficient products and services from each other which can only benefit us all.

Bilateral trade remains as relevant in today’s quickly evolving technological world. Start-ups actually get involved much sooner in bilateral trade than traditional industries as they expand internationally within a few years – sometimes less – all over the world, setting up shop in different continents. This is a fantastic, relatively new phenomenon and it also shows that physical barriers like crossing the North Sea on a sailing boat are becoming less relevant.

Bilateral trade is not only a B2B affair. The internet has made it possible and much easier for it to become B2C – think Amazon, Apple and Samsung – or even C2C. Great Britain is particularly apt at the latter. Using platforms such as eBay have turned ordinary Brits into bilateral traders working from their kitchen table and although not officially registered, it now accounts for a huge part of British exports to other countries.

All the above show that bilateral trade is good for everyone – from the employees, their families to the company’s shareholders and ultimately the government tax revenues.

It is therefore primordial that the current isolationist and protectionist forces which potentially will be unleashed in different countries and regions are not taking over. People have and will always trade, it is simply part of our genes and suppressing it, will only temporarily work. Iran and South Africa suffered embargos for perfectly legitimate reasons but it only made their people more determined in finding creative ways to trade. And trade they did.

The same will happen with regards to Brexit. Whatever our politicians will come up with, I am happy to bet – and I am not a gambler – that bilateral trade between our countries will not only survive but continue to thrive. After all, it has done so for the last 1000 years.

This piece was written by Michel Vanhoonacker Belgian Luxembourg Chamber Of Commerce Chairman. The Golden Bridge Awards 2016, held to celebrate and recognise those who succeed in trade between the UK and Belgium, winners were announced recently, click to here read who won.

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The 20th edition of the prestigious Golden Bridge Trade & Export Awards for outstanding achievements in exporting between the UK and the BeLux have been won by BelExport and Shanks Group plc. The Awards were presented by the Belgian-Luxembourg Chamber of Commerce (BLCC) and the British Chamber of Commerce in Belgium. Awards were also won by Namgrass, Orega and Lancer Europe.

This year, BelExport received the coveted Golden Bridge Export Award handed over by H.E. Mr Guy Trouveroy, Ambassador of Belgium to the Court of St James’s, during a glamorous gala ceremony in central London on 24 November. The Jury chose this family owned company as the winner for its hard work in an very competitive and high risk environment, for its continuous quest for innovation in what many would consider a basic and simple product – apples and pears basically – and for the sheer determination of this company in the face of geopolitical and climate challenges it keeps facing and adapting to.

Shanks Group plc. won the award for British companies, which was presented by The British Ambassador to Belgium Alison Rose. Shanks is a leading international waste-to-product business. The Group uses a range of cost-effective sustainable technologies to make valuable products from what is thrown away.

Shanks meets the growing need from public and private sectors to manage waste sustainably without damaging the environment.

The Jury were impressed with Shanks’ investment and commitment to the Belgian market. The Group has focused on their Belgian business in numerous ways, one of which being the issuing of their first ever ‘green retail bond’, worth €100 million. To be green all funds had to be proven to be dedicated to sustainable projects. They have also continually invested in their Belgian business and have put the correct structure in place to ensure their people are able to grow and develop in the company.

Best newcomer awards

The award of Best Newcomer on the Belgian market was handed out to Orega by Thomas Spiller, President at the British Chamber of Commerce in Belgium. The Jury were impressed with Orega’s persistence and long term commitment to internationalising their business. Orega have bridged the gap between Belgium and the UK, allowing companies that work in their UK business centres to expand their reach and dip their toes in international markets more easily.

As a privately owned service office provider, Orega’s success outside of its home market is associated with its continuous commitment to its people, as well as building a reputation for integrity and professionalism. Orega continues to innovate, developing their existing co-working space in Belgium and using it as a platform for engaging with start-up businesses.

The award of Best Newcomer in the UK was handed out to Namgrass by Ben De Smit, Economic and Commercial Counsellor for Flanders at the Belgian Embassy in London. The Jury were impressed with how 2 young entrepreneurial spirits, one from Belgium and one from the UK, created a niche market which was deemed too small for the big players and turning it into a profitable and sizeable market with great potential.

Providing high quality artificial grass solutions for companies and individuals, Namgrass works with local partners to reach out across the UK, touting commercial work for a number of leading UK Businesses.

Best small & medium-sized enterprise

The SME award was handed out to Lancer Europe by Mr Patrick Engelberg, Ambassador of the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg. The Jury considered the company to be a very successful example of cooperation between the Brussels based HQ and the UK subsidiary, resulting in a truly innovative approach of the market with new and exciting products.

Lancer Europe provides innovative beverage dispensing products and solutions, as well as being the main supplier to the bottling industry and quick serve market. Established in Belgium in 1997, the company moved across the channel into the UK market in 2003 in order to access the unique ‘Pub Culture’ and high capacity entertainment venues, providing beverage solutions to venues such as Wembley Stadium, Lord’s Cricket Ground and the O2.

“High-quality winners”

BLCC Chairman Michel Vanhoonacker said: “Since the inception of the Golden Bridge Trade & Export Awards 20 years ago, the world has changed a lot – in terms of socio-economic mutations, new emerging economies, the internet, a growing EU and more lately of course Brexit and the US elections. However, the trading links between the UK, Belgium and Luxembourg remain as strong as ever and celebrating and recognising companies contributing to this success story, is probably more relevant than ever.  We are proud to have once again a series of high quality winners which confirm our close ties and the need for the free flow of trade in Europe.

British Chamber of Commerce in Belgium President Thomas Spiller said: “The Golden Bridge Trade & Export Awards continue to highlight the strength and importance of the Benelux and UK markets as a whole, and this year’s winners help to emphasise that point. These bilateral awards allow businesses to celebrate their commitment to maintaining a strong UK-European relationship and that we, as chambers of commerce, will continue to facilitate a platform for these UK-Belgium & Luxembourg ties to develop.”

Golden Bridge

This is the second installment of our company spotlights for the Golden Bridge Awards 2016. The Golden Bridge Awards recognise the trade and export success of UK companies doing business in Belgium, and Belgian & Luxembourg companies doing business in the UK. As the Golden Bridge Awards gala 2016 draws ever closer, we learn a little more about this year’s finalists, BelExport, Namgrass and Shanks plc

namgrassNamgrass UK was launched in 2009 after The Grass Company spotted a gap in the UK market whilst attending the Chelsea Flower show, once just an operation containing one employee, the company now employs over 20 talented individuals within the UK branch. Such growth has been achieved via consistent reinvestment in the company, its products and its people, with regular product updates and development in the UK being rolled out throughout Europe. Providing high quality artificial grass solutions for companies and individuals, Namgrass works with local partners to reach out across the UK, touting commercial work with the likes of popular Sky Sports programme ‘Soccer AM’ as well as amusement parks Alton Towers and Legoland.

BelExportf555-belexport-logo is a Fruit Export Company whose main products are Apples and Pears, grown in the Haspengouw Region (Limburg). Founded in 1994, in the last 10 years Britain has become a key market and despite recent challenges such as the Russian Contra-ban (the banning of fruit and vegetable imports from EU countries) the UK continues to be a strong market for the company. In 2015 Bel’Export exported over 9.5 million kilos of pears, due to their flexibility and commitment to delivering quality products even in challenging situations.  Tradition and loyalty are two key values for this family owned business who are spreading Haspengouw region traditions.

Fia8edf02c-213d-4ffc-b2df-99d5148e869b_shanks-logonally, Shanks Group plc is a leading international waste to product business, meeting the growing need to manage waste without damaging the environment. Their solutions reduce greenhouse gas emissions, recycle natural resources and limit fossil fuel dependency. Originally formed in 1880, Shanks first moved into Belgium in 1998 and continues to grow in the country after recently announcing a merger with Benelux waste firm Van Gansewinkel Groep B.V. Shanks operates in three divisions; Hazardous, Commercial and Municipal, and has operations in the Netherlands, Belgium, UK and Canada, employing around 3,500 people.

Click here to see each finalist’s profile on the Belgium-Luxembourg Chamber of Commerce’s website.

There is still time to register to attend the Awards Gala, held at the prestigious Victoria Ballroom at the Belgium-Luxembourg Chamber of Commerce Clubhouse in London on Thursday November 24th with a keynote speech by Thomas Leysen, Chairman of KBC. To find out more information click here or email our team via goldenbridge@britishchamber.be

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